Friday night marked game No. 900 together for the Caps' dynamic duo of Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, and the two longtime teammates marked the occasion with multi-point nights in a convincing 6-3 win over the Devils in New Jersey.
Backstrom had a four-point night - reaching the 900-point plateau for his career in the process - with two goals and two assists, and Ovechkin had a goal and an assist as one or both players was involved in each of Washington's first four goals of the contest.
The confluence of the twin 900 milestones was a neat little detail on this night, too.
Video: Backstrom propels Capitals past Devils
"Yeah, it's great, actually," says Backstrom. "I wasn't expecting that, but sometimes that happens. It's fun being part of this organization for this long, and for playing with a great player like Alex. It's very fortunate from my side, so you've just got to enjoy every moment."
New Jersey jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a power-play goal just four minutes after opening puck drop. The Devils' 29th-ranked power play worked the puck around to Nico Hischier at the left half wall, and Hischier fed Kyle Palmieri for a redirect goal at the top of the paint, putting the Devils on top.
The Caps turned in a strong first, putting plenty of offensive zone pressure on the Devils. On the one-year anniversary of his first NHL start, New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood was sharp early, setting aside each of the first nine shots sent in his direction. A right pad stop on Alex Ovechkin was the best of the bunch.
Washington missed a chance to get even when Carl Hagelin's penalty shot try missed high, but a pair of late strikes enabled the Caps to take a lead to the room at first intermission.
Video: WSH@NJD: Ovechkin pots wrister from above the circle
Tom Wilson made an excellent play along the wall in neutral ice, bumping a breakout feed to the middle of the ice for Backstrom, and catching him in stride. Backstrom gained the zone and fed Ovechkin on the right wing. From just above the right circle, Ovechkin put a wrist shot behind Blackwood at 18:25 to knot the score at 1-1.
With the same unit still on the ice and buzzing the New Jersey zone, Wilson made a perfect feed from the left-wing corner out to the right point. From there, John Carlson put a shot toward the net, and Backstrom nicked it past Blackwood for a 2-1 Washington lead with 24.8 seconds left in the first.
Video: WSH@NJD: Backstrom redirects puck into the twine
New Jersey squared the score once again early in the second. After Carlson heeled a one-timer from the bottom of the right circle, New Jersey's Blake Coleman collected the puck and tore up ice on a 2-on-1 rush with Nikita Gusev. Coleman gave it to Gusev, got it back from him and beat Caps goaltender Ilya Samsonov to make it a 2-2 game at 4:15 of the middle period.
Once again, the Caps went ahead in the final minute of the frame. With the two sides playing 4-on-4 hockey, Ovechkin fed Backstrom down low, just off the left post. Backstrom went to Dmitry Orlov in the high slot, and Orlov sent it right back from whence it came, and Backstrom chipped it home with 28.9 seconds left in the second. His second goal of the game enabled the Caps to carry a 3-2 lead to the third.
Video: WSH@NJD: Backstrom pots second goal with quick shot
With the two sides still playing 4-on-4 early in the third, the Caps expanded their lead. Backstrom and Ovechkin combined to put some forechecking heat on Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller behind the New Jersey net, and Backstrom collected Mueller's errant feed along the right-wing wall and sent it cross-ice for Michal Kempny along the left half wall. Carlson made a good read and jumped up into the slot, and Kempny hit him perfectly for a redirection goal and a 4-2 Caps lead at :42 of the third.
Video: WSH@NJD: Carlson knocks in Kempny's pass
Just over six minutes later, Washington's tenacious fourth line manufactured another insurance goal. Brendan Leipsic and Nic Dowd combined to win a puck battle down low in New Jersey ice, and Dowd sent it to Radko Gudas at the right point. Gudas sent it across to partner Jonas Siegenthaler, whose wrist shot found purchase behind Blackwood at 6:53, making it a 5-2 game.
Video: WSH@NJD: Siegenthaler strikes with rooftop blast
New Jersey coach Alain Nasreddine then hooked Blackwood, sending rookie goalie Gilles Senn on in relief for his first taste of NHL duty.
With less than five minutes remaining, Richard Panik took a nice feed from Lars Eller and scored from the slot, beating Senn to make it a 6-2 game at 15:33.
Video: WSH@NJD: Panik squeezes the puck past Senn
Devils winger Miles Wood scored in the game's final minute to account for the 6-3 final.
"We had a chance to spend some time working on different areas of our game," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "I liked the start; even though we give up the first goal, we did a lot of good things in the first period, and the guys stuck with it. We were able to get rewarded as the game went on."